Brent Boscarino Aquatic Ecology Research with Students

When Dr. Brent Boscarino joined the high school faculty in 2012, he brought with him an ongoing research interest and program: aquatic invasive species investigations in the Finger Lakes and associated waterways. Brent's research has incorporated students at the highest level. In his words, students are doing graduate work, not undergraduate work, not high school level work, and they are "rising to the challenge."

2017 - 2018

In the summer of 2017, Brent and several of his students traveled to Portland Oregon to present their work at the ESA Annual conference. The title of their presentation was: "A bloody red invasion: A collaborative approach to the early detection and food web impacts of the Hudson River basin's newest aquatic invader, the bloody red shrimp (Hemimysis anomala). "

Ongoing 2017-2018: Dr. Boscarino will continue his work, using grant funds (150K!) received in spring 2017 to carry on this important work. A bit of the history of this research project is below.

In 2018, Dr. Boscarino was recognized as being lead author on "one of the most influential papers about large lakes of the world, one of three for Lake Ontario" by ASLO, one of the preeminent marine and freshwater journals. The article: Boscarino et al. "The effect of temperature and predator-prey interactions on the migration, behavior and vertical distribution of Mysis relicta" Limnology and Oceanography 52 (4), 2007, 1599-1613, addresses the extent to which "temperature, temperature gradients, predator smell, and prey availability influence the migratory behaviors and vertical distribution of the opossum shrimp."

Students in the life science have the research bug in other ways and are part of authentic field and research experiences on a regular basis. PDS is the "go to school" for Citizen Science work in the area of NYDEC Eel Sampling.

At the start of 2017-18, our students were at Norris Point once again, weighing, measuring and assisting with tagging eels!

Summer 2015, 2016

In 2015, Brent, his co-researcher, Dr. Meghan Brown of Hobart and William Smith Colleges, Dr. Bruce Smith (professor emeritus, Ithaca College) and a skilled group of PDS high school students embarked on a research trip to Seneca Lake to study. Students on the team were:

Class of 2018

          • Erik H.
          • Mattison W.

Class of 2017

          • Chris C.
          • Kate M.
          • Sonomi O.

Class of 2016

  • Mia F.
  • Elinor S.

Class of 2015

          • Jesse H.
          • Julia R.

Special thanks to parent, Johan Hedlund for accompanying the team and providing diving expertise.

Project Description:

*Note: this was written prior to the 2015 summer research trip and describes the intent.

PDS Invasive Species Research Group Embarks on Intensive Study of Hemimysis anomala backed by Grant from Great Lakes Research Consortium

The PDS Invasive Species Research Group, under the direction of high school science teacher Brent Boscarino*, has the honor of being one of only three groups in North America to be funded by the Great Lakes Research Consortium (GLRC) through the Great Lakes Protection Fund. The GLRC is an organization of 18 colleges and universities in New York, with nine affiliate campuses in Ontario, dedicated to collaborative research and education on the Great Lakes. The grant proposal, co-authored by Boscarino with direct involvement from his students, fits within the goals of the GLRC to facilitate research and scholarship involving Great Lakes issues, the education of students on topics related to the Great Lakes ecosystem and dissemination of gathered information to a wider scientific and public network. The 2015-‘16 Small Grant will fund a portion of the work the group will undertake this summer and next.

Their quest, in collaboration with Associate Professor Meghan Brown of Hobart and William Smith Colleges and her undergraduate students and Dr. Bruce Smith (retired Professor of Biology at Ithaca College), is to conduct an intensive study of Hemimysis anomala, an invasive species of “bloody red” shrimp and its impact on native waterways and food webs. The groups recently worked together in 2013-2014 to track the movement of this shrimp from its point of invasion origin in Lake Ontario towards the Hudson River via. the Erie Canal. In this previous study, the group reported that the species is on the doorstep of invading our aquatic ecosystems here in the Hudson Valley.

The current grant is an affirming step in the next phase of their collaborative research and will induct the students into the world of real time, in situ science. In Phase 1 of the project, the students are designing and implementing a citizen science campaign, which includes distributing educational brochures and sampling kits to local lake users to help monitor and track the spread of the species throughout the Finger Lakes and larger Great Lakes basin into Hudson River watersheds. , This summer, the students fine-tuned two versions of budget-friendly “shrimp traps” to be distributed to the public to help with early detection of the shrimp in local waterways. While a standard containment device costs upwards of $500, the students were able to create both types of shrimp traps for under $10. The first trap design utilizes embroidery loop, mesh fabric, string, plastic collection bottle and weight to mimic a student plankton net and the second design uses PVC, swimming “noodles” and a small flashlight to capture individual Hemimysis inhabiting the lake floor. The grant money has allowed the group to purchase the required materials for distribution and help establish a central database for recording the presence or absence of the species throughout New York State.

Phase 2 of the study delves into the feeding behavior of native and naturalized fish species and addresses the degree to which they utilize Hemimysis as a food source. Master divers, Erik and Johan Hedlund (PDS student and parent, respectively), are utilizing SCUBA videography to determine the behavioral and spatial relationships of Hemimysis and their fish predators in the wild. The group is in the process of conducting several controlled feeding experiments on the shrimp with young lake trout, alewife and yellow perch predators in the laboratory. This phase of the study will bring the students to the forefront of fish behavioral research to determine the potential of native and naturalized predators to help control the abundance of this shrimp species in its new habitat. Preliminary results from this summer’s work suggest high feeding efficiency of young-of-the-year lake trout on Hemimysis which is good news for lake trout fishing enthusiasts given that the presence of this new, nutritious shrimp species could represent a boon to lake trout growth and survival.

Perhaps the most remarkable opportunity the GLRC grant will provide to the students is to dive headlong into DNA and early detection work in collaboration with Boscarino’s colleagues at Ithaca College, Hobart and William Smith Colleges, and Central Michigan University. The group will develop environmental DNA (eDNA) probes for use in the early detection of Hemimysis in newly invaded waters. Since individuals cast species-specific DNA fragments into the environment as they pass through an area, it is possible to detect their presence in the following days and even weeks after inhabitance.. “This technique of testing for environmental DNA is relatively new to invasion biology, and really science altogether, over the past decade or so. Every species on the planet has a unique DNA signature – we will be looking for a specific Hemimysis mitochondrial DNA signature in waterways we anticipate may be inhabited by the species,” says Boscarino. Environmental DNA work with this species will begin in earnest in late 2015 into early 2016.

To get a broad perspective on the shrimp species Brent and his students will be studying and monitoring, click here to see a paper published by PDS student coauthors based on survey work conducted a few summers ago.

“This summer’s and year’s work will be much more extensive than the work published in 2014… and I expect great things to come out of this for us as researchers and in terms of increasing overall awareness to invasive species in our region,” said Boscarino.

Since the 2015-2016 Small Grant has funded only a portion of the study, this project is also made possible by grants and support from the PDS Annual Fund. The support from both funds presents a great opportunity for students to participate in

graduate/university-level research and ultimately be a part of a team that will be submitting several papers to peer reviewed journals!

* High school science teacher, Brent Boscarino, has been studying Hemimysis anomala since his post-doctoral days at Cornell University and subsequent summers from 2009 to present.


Inserting Hemimysis in Tanks

Inserting Hemimysis in Tanks

Group Shot (missing Erik H.)

Group Shot on Dock (missing Erik H.)

Erik H., diver

Erik H., Diver